The gag itself made headlines months ago at SXSW, but that didn’t stop Preacher fans from a shocked chortle at Tom Cruise’s explosive cameo in the AMC comic drama’s premiere. We’ve heard a bit of Cruise’s reaction, but now Preacher bosses explain the bizarre bit, while AMC releases new sneak peeks of the show’s June 5 return “See.”

You’re warned of full spoilers through Sunday’s Preacher pilot, but if you hadn’t heard, Tom Cruise is officially no more. The ex-Scientologist actor was briefly name-checked as the third prospective host of an unknown cosmic entity, before following suit as the latest religious prophet detonated into a shower of blood and guts by the entity’s power. The being itself eventually finds a home in Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), but asked how they landed on Tom Cruise as one of the fallen hosts, showrunner Sam Catlin told The Hollywood Reporter:

We wanted to have this entity try out a lot of different hosts. We went with a devout preacher in Africa, then we went to a Satanist and then we were like … well, what else do we do? … And I said, ‘What if it’s Tom Cruise?’ We immediately realized that we had to do that.

We kept waiting for someone to tell us we can’t do that. I think they were getting ready to, but once they realized how funny it was, I think they started to wait for somebody else to tell us no, and by then, it was too late.

Both co-producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assured that the reference to Cruise was in good spirits, while comic creator Garth Ennis also noted it as a smart setup that the entity needed a very specific host. As to whether the bit will ever be referenced again, Catlin says “This is a world where Tom Cruise exists … and he’s dead. It buys us all sorts of things.”

You can watch the first scene for yourself, along with previews for followup episode “See.” Next week will see a Memorial Day rerun of the pilot episode, followed by Chris Hardick’s oh-so originally named Talking Preacher, while episode 2 debuts on June 5.

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